So much to learn at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI/ICAD Intern

The month of January has been like no other. Many years, I have spent this time of the year in piles and piles of snow with -50 weather. Not this time. I am here in Durban, South Africa in the middle of summer with +30 weather as a Documentation and Research Assistant for the Networks for Change program with McGill University and University of KwaZulu-Natal has been of the best opportunities I have taken yet. The days are going by very quick, it has already been a month since arrival and from that I learned that I must make every day of every moment count. I am grateful for the members of the team, Felicia’s and I’s landlord (who is next door to us) and our roommate who is in the same apartment building as us. They are all awesome, wonderful and most importantly, supportive.

The members of the group gave presentations on teen pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV/AIDs and gender base violence to Felicia and I. The presentations opened my eyes and gave me a better understanding on ways I would have never thought of. Also, the supervisor Lisa, has shown Felicia and I projects that the Young Women’s Success Group from Winterton has worked on. The projects included cellphilms, digital stories and photo voice. I find that it is a creative way to spread the message(s) of issues within the villages. Luckily, two weeks later we met the Young Women’s Success group and when we arrived, I felt welcomed instantly. Meeting the girls was very brief but in the short time they were all smiling, hugging, shaking our hands and they have seemed very interested in who Felicia and I were and where we came from. Recently, Felicia and I have been taught by the members of the group how to do a photo voice. I found that interesting as we have to pick a topic, take pictures and write about a couple issues then write ways we could prevent it. Right now, we are working on our own digital stories (and I am almost done) and it is another fun activity to do because almost similar to photo voice we pick a topic realistic to the community, write a story, draw and read then later becomes a little video with yourself telling the story.

Elva, our landlord, every Sunday she has a gathering on her balcony. Last Sunday, we had a braai (BBQ). I enjoy these gatherings because it is a way to bring us together to get to know each other with stories that we all have to share. Last, Kaari, our roommate has driven Felicia and I all over! We have been to a couple beaches, restaurants, to the mall and he has even taken us grocery shopping. The act of kindness that has been given is unexplainable, I am grateful.

What I loved about interning with the Participatory Cultures Lab at McGill

By Felicia Tugak

November 8, 2016 – finally the day I’ve been waiting for since, like, forever! (December 2015). I was so stoked to prepare for the internship in Durban, South Africa.  At first, I was feeling shy about being part of the team. It’s normal especially if you don’t know anyone. But everyone in Montreal was so welcoming and our team (the Participatory Cultures Lab) was super supportive!

So, on the first week of my arrival, I was fortunate enough to come during the time Montreal was hosting the National Women’s Studies Association Conference. I was able to learn more about what some women were facing in some parts of Africa. Sadly, just before the week was over, I got sick.

Of course, our schedule was tight and well planned at McGill University, but there was so little time to do other workshops and activities.  Practically every part of our time in Montreal and everything that we did there from the work to meeting people, building teamwork by using workshops, activities, writing blogs and having meetings, was valuable…


My favorite part as an intern, was the celebration of A Space for Arts. I learned how other people used different ways to express their feelings. As we have many artists back home that use different ways of arts to express themselves but these were different from what I had seen from home. The university was approved to bring some arts to bring colour and interest to the campus which was bit dull before.

I believe that our team at the Participatory Cultures Lab learned more about our home when Tonya and I made a presentation about Nunavut. Nunavut is a young territory, so not everyone knows about our place. They had just learned about how we lived then and now. During our presentation, I noticed that everyone had been attentive to everything we had written up for our presentation and asked a lot of questions which we answered keenly.



Goodbye Montreal, hello Durban!

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI Intern

On Friday, January 6, 2017 Felicia and I started our journey to Durban, South Africa. Our flight was in the 9:00 PM at the International Airport in Montreal and overnight we’ve flown to London, United Kingdom. We’ve made it to London, UK 6 in morning, their time. The layover was 10 hours long, which gave us a lot of time to pass through security, explore the terminal, and even took a 2 hour nap!


Ten hours later, our next stop was Cape Town, South Africa. The flight was 11 hours long! That was quite an experience as I have never been on a flight for that long before.

Finally, on Sunday, January 8, 2017 by early afternoon, Felicia and I have made it to our destination! Durban, South Africa, here we are! Lisa and Labo were at the airport to meet us. Also, they have bought us a few items of groceries to last us a couple days; how nice of them! As exhausted I was from the long journey from Canada to South Africa, I was very anxious to the see the wonderful city and the beautiful people. Lisa and Labo took Felicia and I to our hosts’ place. I am very pleased with our apartment! Perfect for two people. Later, Felicia and I had a naps until the next day from our long journey.


On Monday, Jan 9/17, Felicia and I had a relaxing day. We stayed at the apartment. On Tuesday, Lisa took us grocery shopping. Wednesday, it is our first in the office on Zwakulu-Natal! Lisa picked us up from the apartment and drove us to the office (how nice of her!) Also, we have met with the other interns that are apart of the project as well, and we were just getting to know about each other and where we come from. Later on that day, I had a dental appointment which is 5 minutes away from our apartment (yay!) Thursday, Lisa was discussing cellphilms, photo voice and digital stories to Felicia and I. Lisa shown us examples that her girls have worked on (amazing work!) Friday, today… we will be working on the schedule with Lisa and Labo and discuss what we will be doing over the next couple of months we are here. I am excited!


Winners Announced at the 4th International Cellphilm Festival

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI Intern

On Friday, December 2, 2016, the 4th International Cellphilm Festival “Exploring Consent: Bodies, Lands, & Media” took place at the McGill Education Building in Montreal, Canada. Basically, a cellphilm is integrating mobile phone technology into participatory visual research and activism. At the festival, there were 11 videos shown and each video was between 60-90 seconds long. Our invited guest speakers at the Cellphilm Festival were Ying-Syuan Huang and Professor Lisa Starr. Ying-Syuan shared her experiences using cellphilms with pre-service science teachers at McGill. Professor Lisa Starr presented on the use of cellphilms in exploring and exposing gender inequity in Ethiopia. Although all 11 videos were great, there could be only 3 winners with a honourable mention. The honourable mention went to Can I Help You? by Kelly Loi and Jorge Antonio Vallejos. Are You Watching? A Cellphilm about Consent & Surveillance by Nick Sabo & Sarah Sabo came in third. The Day After by Nicole Boudreau & Marc Bragdon came in second and finally, the first place winner for the 4th International Cellphilm Festival went to Exploring Consent: Bodies, Lands & Media by Munira Sitotaw & Yohannus Gebru. Congratulations to the winners and thank you for those who came and joined the festival.

1st Place
Exploring Consent: Bodies, Lands & Media

2nd Place
The Day After

3rd Place
Are You Watching? A Cellphilm about Consent and Surveillance

Honourable Mention
Can I Help You?

Photos by Felicia Tugak, IAYI Intern


Professor Claudia Mitchell Receives SSHRC’s Top Research Honour


On November 22nd, Professor Claudia Mitchell was awarded the SSHRC Gold Medal for strengthening HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention.

For the full article see Professor Claudia Mitchell receives SSHRC’s top research honour.

Poetic Autoethnographies Project will Develop Participatory Research through Artist-Practitioner Expertise

A new project led by University of Brighton’s Professor Helen Johnson, Visiting Researcher with the Institute for Human Development and Well-Being (IHDW), seeks to develop a collaborative, participatory research method that capitalizes on the respective strengths of spoken word artists and social scientific researchers. The project is funded by the UK’s National Centre for Research Methods and the University of Brighton, in association with Professor Claudia Mitchell, Director of IHDW.

The research being carried out this July and August at McGill University’s Participatory Cultures Lab acts as a pilot study, exploring how these expert artist/academic groups can work together effectively. For this pilot, we are working with 8 young spoken word poets and 4 spoken word artist-educators to explore issues around prejudice and discrimination. The study will produce creative explorations of personal experiences of discrimination, which are based on a firm foundation of extant academic knowledge and on a robust working knowledge of qualitative research methods.

The co-researchers will be trained in qualitative research methods by Helen Johnson and coached in poetry performance/writing by experienced, local artist-educators, Cat Kidd, Deanna Smith, Tanya Evanson and Chris Masson. They will create a chapbook of social scientifically-informed poems on discrimination, and deliver a spoken word performance at Mainline Theatre on Sunday 14th August (20.00-22.00). The performance will be free and open to all, but tickets will be limited.

Visit Project Page: “Poetic Autoethnographies: Developing Participatory Research through Artist-Practitioner Expertise”

Call for Papers: Technologies of Non-violence

Girlhood Studies is seeking papers for Technologies of Non-Violence: Re-Imagining Mobile and Social Media Practices in the Lives of Girls and Young Women. Inquiries can be sent to Guest Editor, Laurel Hart ( before July 31.

Institute for Human Development and Well-Being Official Launch

McGill’s Faculty of Education is pleased to announce the establishment of the McGill Institute for Human Development and Well-Being (IHDW). The IHDW is a new transdisciplinary unit led by the Faculty of Education and drawing together researchers from McGill’s Faculties of Medicine, Arts, Science, Engineering and Dentistry.

“The driving force behind the creation of the Institute,” stated Institute Director Dr. Claudia Mitchell, “was a recognition of the importance of fostering research, training, teaching, and collaboration amongst researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, professionals, schools and communities with an active interest in the development and well-being of the human individual from a transdisciplinary perspective.”

Please visit for more information about the Institute.

Photos from the official launch on April 5, 2016:


Professors Lajoie, Mitchell honoured at McGill’s Bravo gala

At McGill’s annual Bravo gala last week the winners of major provincial, national and international prizes, together with their families, friends and colleagues, gathered to celebrate excellence in research and scholarship.

The University’s Bravo gala, now in its eleventh year, celebrates the cream of the researcher crop.

Two professors from the Faculty of Education were honoured at this year’s Bravo gala: Professor Susanne Lajoie, of our Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Professor Claudia Mitchell, of the Department of Integrated Studies in Education.

In October 2015 Dr. Lajoie was awarded Acfas’ Prix Thérèse Gouin-Décarie recognizing her pioneering work in the social sciences. Citing her “groundbreaking research over two decades, and her acclaimed prolific publications,” Dr. Claudia Mitchell was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in September of last year.

Slam and Spoken Word Artists – Call for Participants

We are looking for young slam and spoken word artists who are interested in participating in a poetry/research project this summer.  Participants must be between 16 and 25 years old on 4th July 2016 and must be available for up to 17 days of project work between 4th July and 26th August.  The project will be a collaboration between social scientists and spoken word artists to create research-based poems related to the theme of discrimination.   It is being run by Dr Helen Johnson (University of Brighton, England) and Prof Claudia Mitchell (McGill University).

During the project, you will be trained in research methods by experienced social scientists and share poetry performance and writing techniques with other spoken word artists, including in masterclass workshops.  You will also help produce and perform in a spoken word performance in Montreal  and create a chapbook of poems.  Participation is free and participants will not be expected to contribute to any materials or tuition.  All participants will receive $300 CAD of book vouchers, a one month public transit pass for citywide travel, ten copies of the chapbook, a certificate of participation and a written reference reflecting their achievements.

If you are interested in taking part or finding out more about the project, please email Helen Johnson at:

Further Information about Helen Johnson (Project Helen Gregory by Gary Learmonth2Organiser)
I am a performance poet, poetry events organiser and academic, specialising in work about/involving the arts and creativity. I have been writing poetry most of my life and performing poetry since around 2000. I run the spoken word areas of several festivals in the UK, including the Poetry&Words stage at the world’s largest greenfield festival, Glastonbury Festival. I work as a senior Psychology Lecturer at the University of Brighton, in England, where I teach a range of different subject areas, including qualitative research methods, community Psychology and the (critical) history of Psychology. My research to date has explored a range of topics, including: UK and US slam communities (doctoral research), poetry interventions in dementia care, and the cognitive neuropsychology of metaphor production.

Until the end of 2015, I was called Helen Gregory, so you will find a lot of my work under that name!


Further Information about the Project
This project is funded by the National Centre for Research Methods and the University of Brighton. Its aim is to develop and articulate innovative, arts-based research methods for the social sciences. The method we will be looking at is autoethnography. This is where researchers write creatively about their experiences, rather than producing the standard , academic journal articles and conference papers. These creative accounts can be much more accessible, engaging and meaningful than the usual dry and dusty academic texts, but they are not always creatively accomplished. My hope, then, is to bring a group of skilled spoken word artists on board, to write high quality poems that are underscored both by their own experiences of discrimination and by what social scientists understand about discrimination.

The poets working on this project will be treated as co-researchers and will be able to shape the focus, timetable and direction of the project, so the way this proceeds is very much open to discussion. The draft plan currently looks like this:

– From recruitment-June: liaise/collaborate with poets over email about the design, focus and timetable of the project

– July: Approx. 4 workshops on research methods (looking at participatory research, arts-based research and literature searching) , 1 or 2 masterclass poetry writing workshops, sessions reviewing the literature (poets working both independently and in a group with Helen Johnson), drafting poems

– August: writing and redrafting poems, 1 or 2 masterclass poetry performance workshops, show design, chapbook design and printing, rehearsals and performance, focus group discussing how the project went

– After August: The lead researchers (Helen and Claudia) will make a video about the project from footage taken during the July/August work. They will also write up the method and project work for journals, conferences and teaching materials.

If you want to find out more about arts-based research, this article about an exhibition I put on to challenge dementia stigma, would be a great place to start:


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